If you’re a bit of a technophile or are in the market for a new television, you may have heard of something called OLED; but what is it? How does it differ from LED technology? What makes it special? In an effort to demystify OLED, I’ve put together what I call OLED 101 – the bare bones facts about this technology that is very likely here to stay.

OLED Defined … and a Little Bit of Science

You’ve heard of light-emitting diode, or LED TV screens and computer monitors for years now, but OLED? What in the heck does the O stand for? It stands for organic. Contrary to popular belief though, OLED is not a new technology. In fact, OLED has been in cell phones since about 2000, so the fact that it is only now showing up in TV screens is somewhat surprising.

Now some science: In the early 1950s, a guy by the name of André Bernanose discovered that if you apply high voltage electric currents through certain organic compounds and polymers, they would emit light. This electroluminescence in organic materials is the basis behind OLED screens, which sandwich an organic semiconductor between two electrodes to create a digital display.

Fact #1 – Thin is in

The organic chemicals that generate the light in OLED screens can be produced in exceptionally thin layers. Plus, OLEDs are their own light sources (electroluminescence) so the TVs themselves don’t need to allow any extra room for a backlight. That means that these OLED screens can be up to one third the thickness of today’s slimmest TVs. Think about that! We’re talking screens that are millimeters thick here people!

Fact #2 – The blackest black

Not only does the lack of a backlight in OLED screens mean they can be ridiculously thin, but it also means that these screens can display deep black levels. Without the shine of a backlight, these deep blacks allow for higher contrast and richer colours, and an absolutely dazzling image.

Fact #3 – Curve appeal

The first OLED TVs that came on the market had a slight curve. To some, this is a fantastic aesthetic element, but to others, not so much. After a little bit of digging, it seemed there was no technological necessity for the curved screen. However, to augment the elite status of these TVs, manufacturers designed them with a curved screen. The new OLED TV from LG, the LG Signature W7 has a flat screen.

Fact #4  Burning issues

Perhaps the biggest issue that has been reported with OLED’s tendency is a potential for some image retention, or burn-in. Just like plasma TVs and the old-school CRT TVs before them, OLED TVs have been reported to retain images on the screen temporarily. While that doesn’t sound like a big deal, it can mean that an image will remain on your screen for awhile if left static for long periods of time. LG TVs have built in mechanisms to reduce image retention and you can check out this interesting article on “Review.com” for tips to keep your screen in pristine condition.

Fact #5 – Limited Options & Hefty Price Tags

There may be a day in the near future when owning an 100” OLED TV is a reality, but until that day, OLED TVs are limited in size . And those TVs do not come cheap. Right now, you’re looking at a hefty price tag for the LG W7 OLED TV.

There is no question that OLED is here to stay. It produces a gorgeous picture, and hangs on the wall like a painting. I, for one, will wait until the price point is more reasonable, but if you have several thousand dollars to spare, then go for it! You won’t be disappointed.

Stacey McGregor is a marketing and communications professional based in Vancouver, BC. She has a passion for the written word, loves learning about new technology and gadgets, and enjoys sharing what she learns through Best Buy's Plug In blog.


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